Articles Posted in Business Development

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ABA Law Practice Magazine

Ah, the ancient art of face-to-face. Ironically, it is still perhaps the greatest business development tool known to man (and woman). Yet, as we seemingly get busier and busier each day, face time has been replaced by FaceTime and Facebook and all other sorts of live-people-avoidance tools aided by a variety of technologies.

This is not to say that those all-important “touches” that remind people of you, your law firm, your brand, your expertise—delivered by e-mail, newsletter, social media, pure advertising, online search or secondary public and media relations efforts are not effective. A touch is a touch. But actually seeing someone in the flesh in their office, at a meeting, over lunch or some other public space is still the most powerful and likely way to generate a new referral or matter.

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ABA Law Practice Magazine, March/April 2017

Diversity as a business development tool cuts both ways. For those law firms that lack it, there is often frustration in knowing there are matters and clients that they will lose. For those that have it, there are endless opportunities to be rewarded.

It was ironic that the March/April 2017 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine arrived the same week that I was working on another ABA responsibility—the March 1st implementation of the ABA’s new CLE diversity policy. As chair of the Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education (SCOCLE), I have had the privilege of being involved in the many years where this policy was discussed, and ultimately adopted. Now I have the opportunity to oversee the implementation of a policy—that quite simply—requires an ABA program to meet a certain diversity threshold among the faculty, or not be accredited by the association. It is not unlike the requirement of many corporate legal departments that will dole out work to diverse lawyers.

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ABA Law Practice Magazine

ABA Law Practice Magazine

Although I typically write my marketing column around four months before publication (in this case, it was July 4th weekend), my timing for the November/December 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine was spot on. It is early December and I’m in the thick of figuring out 2017 marketing budgets for about a dozen law firms. Micah…how much should we be spending?

In Law Firm Marketing Spending:  How Much Is Enough? I provide the answer.

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PBIIn the 15+ years where I’ve taught the marketing & advertising ethics CLE hour of Ethics Potpourri, this years’ program has elicited some of the most fascinating exchanges from the audience. I teach this hour live in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh every April, August and December. The coming weeks include the live presentation in Pittsburgh on August 25th and Philadelphia on August 30th. For directions and registration information, visit PBI. If you missed the program in April and can’t make August, the December dates will be here before you know it.

The deadly Amtrak train crash in Pennsylvania last May (2015) serves as the backdrop for a program that examines whether today’s ethics rules regarding solicitation and advertising are still effective in protecting victims and their families?  For an attorney who believes in the reasoning and philosophy of the Rules of Professional Conduct, does waiting out a 30 day moratorium on contact mean you’ve lost out on the lucrative race for clients? The program examines related court cases, ethics opinions and the RPC as they tie into various forms of business development for plaintiff’s attorneys that are seeking clients in a highly competitive marketplace. Some of the concepts might disgust you—but they are kosher. Some might remind you that today’s society, spurred on by a different news cycle, social media and a more cutthroat landscape means changing the way you do business, and get business.

The program flows from a column I wrote for the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine in late 2015, Content Marketing is Outpacing the Ethics Rules. That column also elicited many e-mails from colleagues on the somewhat controversial subject matter. As I witnessed the aftermath of the deadly crash at home in Philadelphia, I watched the way attorneys used newspaper articles, press conferences, e-mail, social media, press releases and other semi- or non-“advertising” means to promote themselves and position their law firms for prospective clients. It reminded me that so many of the ethics rule in place today to protect the client are simply outdated or ineffective. Judge for yourself.

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LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625My first sit-downs with law firm management to discuss marketing strategies were 20 years ago. In the subsequent two decades, I held those discussions in the board rooms of Amlaw 100 law firms and in conference rooms of law firms with ten or fewer. Their approach to marketing expectations from young attorneys was consistently inconsistent.

Back then I was somewhat of a young lawyer. At least youngish. Not so much anymore. But there is certainly an increase in business development training and marketing support for newer attorneys. How quickly you are expected to assume a marketing role depends on the law firm. The larger the law firm, the less likely you will be asked to originate business any time soon. However, that does not mean you should not be laying the groundwork for when that expectation arrives.

Small and midsize law firms often like to indoctrinate young lawyers into marketing efforts sooner. After all, everyone at a boutique firm is a potential salesperson when out and about. There is a little more pressure to put you in a position to generate opportunities.

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LPM_JA16_1FrontDepts 3.inddAs National Football League coach Chip Kelly begins his first training camp with the San Francisco 49ers, my column in the July/August 2016 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice Magazine, A Business Development Coaching Clinic: Culture Beats Scheme, seems quite timely.

Much like many law firm BD coaching efforts, I wonder if Coach Kelly—who I believe is a smart guy, as are many of the attorneys I’ve coached—will make the necessary adjustments to learn from his past failings (and past successes). Unfortunately for me, his failings came with the Philadelphia Eagles, where I am a season ticket holder, as opposed to the Oregon Ducks, in which I have no personal allegiance.

The column looks at the heavy investment of time and money many law firms put into “coaching,” often with lukewarm results. I talk about the all-star attorneys—the rainmakers—that already know what they are doing. And the process that needs to be undertaken to make these efforts pay off.

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Thumbnail image for LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625.pngPerhaps it is sad to think that customer or client service has gotten so bad of late that highlighting those that do it well should not be necessary, but it is. So many companies send us off to automated web and voice mail systems, force us to chat with folks half way around the globe that can’t speak the language too well and are flummoxed when forced off script, or in some cases show they simply don’t care. Where I live, Comcast’s monopoly means that no matter what happens I’m still a customer. When disgruntled with some experiences on Priceline, I simply took my business elsewhere. And in most cases, law firm clients can choose to do the same.

So when the service you receive is particularly personalized, attentive and caring, you practically go into shock. In serving as an issue editor for the Marketing-themed April 2016 edition of Law Practice Today (LPT), I contributed a feature story on Client Retention–It’s All in the Listening, which reminds us attorneys just how simple it can be to provide the type of client service that is both memorable and ensures repeat business. Taking some of my favorite personal recent examples–Kimpton’s Monaco chain for hotel travel, my long-time dentist Dr. Robert Marchinek, and two of the top Philadelphia restaurants in Bibou and Helm, I show how some simple listening and responsiveness goes much further than any sophisticated business development game plan can. It is all in the listening. See where you might fall in comparison to knowing the “personal” side of your clients.

With nearly 18 features and columns, the marketing issue of LPT is full of great ideas. In gathering articles for the issue, I thought about what I wanted to hear about and from whom. So I hit up some of the leading experts in the business to teach me something.

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Delaware.jpgWhen I started HTMLawyers in 2001, my first significant client turned out to be a fast-growing law firm in Wilmington, Delaware. A colleague in American Bar Association circles, Heather Jefferson, had asked me what I was up to at an Annual Meeting. Her response was that she had the perfect firm for me to work with. She was right. And my relationship with the Delaware legal market was underway.

At that time–despite growing up not too far south in Baltimore and attending college and law school an hour north in Philadelphia–I knew little about Delaware outside of visiting my cousin Peter, a Rabbi in Wilmington, and the great value of no sales tax.

In the 15-plus years since, I have become well acquainted with the Delaware legal marketplace. There is quite simply a uniqueness to the practice of law in Delaware that makes it different from every place else. I’ve had the pleasure of working at some point in time with most of the more prestigious law firms in town. And I’m not kissing up when I tell you that they are some of my favorite people in the business. The Delaware practice boasts some of the best and most sophisticated corporate and bankruptcy practitioners in the land. There are few courts held in higher regard than Chancery. And, for the most part, with few exceptions, I’ve enjoyed handling various aspects of business and professional development for them. I enjoy my days in Wilmington and grabbing some tax-free goods on the way home.

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advisor-lawyer-relationship-res0915-mi600-resize-600x338.jpgIn the September 2015 issue of Research Magazine, contributing editor Jane Wollman Rusoff writes about building advisor-attorney networks that will generate referrals and benefit clients. In being interviewed for her feature, it was interesting to discuss the relationship from the financial services side of the business rather than starting with my usual legal-side perspective.

While the cross-referral route is often at the heart of many of these relationships–typically between business lawyers and those advising on the numbers side of a matter–the article points out the need for both to work together. At a time when investors’ financial needs have become more complex, private attorneys — such as specialists in estates and trusts, especially, as well as in family/divorce, taxes and elder care — are an important component of many FAs’ networks and in some instances, even considered part of their team.

While I warn about just how close those relationships can get (no fee sharing with non-lawyers in almost every jurisdiction and potential conflicts of interest), there is no question that there is an obvious fit between the two professions. In numerous practices, attorneys I work with on business development strategies will tell me that various finance professionals–from CPAs to planners and investors–are their #1 source of referrals. With that in mind, we often plan social and educational events targeting those relationships. In addition, we often team and partner on marketing efforts aimed directly at the prospective client for both the legal and finance sides.

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LP_Today_Logo-e1401945551625.pngLeaders of many of the nation’s biggest and baddest law firms converged in New York City recently to discuss the rapidly changing legal landscape and how to adjust not only to survive, but thrive. The oft-repeated themes of innovation, differentiation and collaboration ruled the day.

My article in the August 2015 issue of Law Practice Today (LPT) serves as a recap of the full day inaugural Big Law Summit, put on by Bloomberg BNA. A who’s who of managing partners, in-house counsel and various industry experts discussed a wide range of issues ranging from innovating in a risk averse environment to adjusting to changing demands on the client side of big business that want more “value based arrangements.”

DLA Piper’s Roger Meltzer gave the global firm perspective. The program titled “Harnessing the Power of Collaboration,” could have been called “how origination dooms us all.” As the infamous quote goes, the first step is in admitting that you have a problem. I was drawn to the Big Law Summit because these law firms are my clients. The issues and answers that ruled the day reinforced those that I experience whenever I’m sitting with a Big Law managing partner or management committee. The conversations struck honestly at the heart of the issues that need to be addressed for major law firms to thrive in today’s global marketplace. Kudos to BNA for putting together a well-run and organized program on a subject matter that clearly had an audience.